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For the mindful man: how we can all benefit from yoga

Model-turned-yoga guru Yogi Cameron explains why yoga should be included in every man’s workout

Let there be work, bread, water and salt for all. ~Nelson Mandela

Strength, flexibility, improved muscle recovery, balance and mindfulness. These are just a few of the things yoga offers those who practice it. So why aren’t more men doing it? Well, in short, they are!

From high-profile pro athletes, actors and even rappers to your mates and coworkers, more men are seeing the benefits yoga offers their physical and mental health. Ahead of XYoga Dubai, the region’s largest yoga festival, set to take place March 16-17 at Kite Beach, we ask former runway model-turned-international yoga guru Yogi Cameron, one of the festival’s headliners, about his experience in swapping the runway for the yoga mat and how men (and women) can benefit from it.

Let there be work, bread, water and salt for all. ~Nelson Mandela

Why do you think men were or are hesitant to start yoga? Men are a little bit behind in yoga compared to women. Women picked it up a lot quicker and they have been doing it for a long time, while men have gotten into it slowly. One of the reasons I think is because they felt like it’s a women sport and it’s something only women do. Another reason could be that men feel like they have to be super flexible to do yoga, so a lot of men didn’t do yoga in the beginning.

What are the benefits of yoga and more specifically to men? Yoga is universal. So, it has nothing to do with men or women. It has to do with your body and the needs of your body and what you need — that’s all it comes down to.

Yoga is broken down into three aspects. The physical action — that’s all the yoga asnas that you do that bring stretching, flexibility and agility to the body. And then you have the mental aspect to it, which is when you have to focus — it gives you that focus in life. And then there is the spiritual aspect. These are the three reasons why we do yoga. Some people only want the physical aspect of it. If you want to get into sports, you do the physical aspect but you have to do some of the mental part as well as the focus will help you compete. Then there’s the spiritual aspect for when we want to know more about life and ourselves — who we are, why we exist and all those kinds of things.

Yoga should be done at home. When you start to do that practice, especially in the morning, you start to get into a discipline. And when you discipline yourself, you become much better at what you do.

Yoga is universal. So, it has nothing to do with men or women. It has to do with your body and the needs of your body and what you need — that’s all it comes down to.

What are some of the things men should do? Generally, men have bigger physical bodies than women, and women are generally more agile. Men need to stretch much more because when you are doing sports you are tightening up the muscles. You want to stretch the muscles and open them up because a tight muscle can break, or it can strain. But when a muscle is very long, then it’s lean and flexible, and has much more endurance.

Positions such as the downward dog pose are great for men because when you are doing this movement, and you are pressing down into the hand and you are pressing down into the feet, your back and the back of the legs are stretched. Sitting in the vajrasana pose is also amazing because it opens up your thighs. Basically, all the postures you want to do are those that open up your muscles.

Men tend to do things in a more forceful way because we use more of our strength, so we think, yeah I should be doing plank pose for example — holding that resistance. We don’t want to use too much resistance because resistance doesn’t open up the body. It holds the body tighter, so the muscles get tighter. So we want to do things like butterfly — putting the feet together and opening up the groin area especially, because it gives us flexibility to then sit in a cross-legged position. If you want to go into meditation, you want to have the agility to be able to sit in this position.

If you want to go into meditation, you want to have the agility to be able to sit in this position.

Many sportsmen adopt yoga into their routine. What are the reasons behind this? LeBron James and Shaquille O’Neal, many golf players, the New Zealand rugby team and Novak Djokovic, the number one tennis champion, are among the sportsmen who do yoga. When I ask them about this habit, they say they do yoga because they love that mental focus. Because, yes — you are opening up your body. Yes, you are giving your body more agility, more flexibility, but it’s that focus that yoga gives you.

That’s why we always do in the morning and start opening up the body and then focusing and doing some breathing practices like full breath, three-part breath, alternative nostril breathing where we are swapping the breath from the right to left side of the brain. This helps focus the mind.

Your practice should give you a body balance, focus in the mind and spiritually, get you to a place where you really know who you are and why you do the things and that’s really a well-rounded yoga practice. So, definitely start if you are a beginner with the body and the mind, get those in the order, do some of these practices, and get a good teacher. Those are really important things as well because teachers should be able to lead you in a way that’s compatible with your body.

Cameron Alborzian, better known as Yogi Cameron, is one of the most-celebrated Ayurvedic and Yogic practitioners in the world. Since 2003 he has been taking these ancient teachings from India, were he was trained and also lives part time. Headlining XYoga Dubai presented by Dubai Holding, he will be hosting a free mass yoga session on Friday, March 16 from 8-9am alongside Bollywood actress, yoga enthusiast and Reebok Ambassador, Malaika Arora. He will also be leading a session on Ayurveda Yoga on Saturday, March 17 from 1.30-2.30pm. Open to all, XYoga Dubai will offer more than 60 complimentary sessions, representing more than 25 yoga styles and delivered by more than 35 instructors.

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